Niehaus Ryan Wong Closes Its Doors
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Niehaus Ryan Wong Closes Its Doors

Niehaus Ryan Wong is shutting its doors. The firm’s demise came about because of a combination of the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the desire of the three principals to go their own ways.

Paul Holmes

SAN FRANCISCO, February 15—Niehaus Ryan Wong, one of the high-flying agencies of the Internet boom, is shutting its doors. The firm’s demise came about because of a combination of the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the desire of the three principals to go their own ways, according to co-founder Bill Ryan, who is launching a new firm, Ryan Communications.
 
NRW was launched 10 years ago and experienced explosive growth in the late 90s, when it was known as the agency that helped launch Yahoo! It also worked to resurrect the image of Apple Computer, and worked with hot tech companies such as Marimba and Creative Labs. The firm peaked at about $15 million in fees, but had only about 20 employees at the end.
 
It gave one month’s notice to both clients and employees on Thursday.
 
“Obviously the market turned around dramatically, and for every new client we won two old clients were going out of business,” says Ryan. “At the same time, it was clear the three partners were each looking to go in different directions, and so there wasn’t that sense of urgency about replacing lost business. The downturn only hastened a decision we would have had to make eventually.”
 
Co-founder Ed Niehaus, described by Ryan as “one of the most knowledgeable people about nano-technology who is not a scientist,” will be taking a position with a nano-tech company that is “in stealth mode.” Niehaus, who already serves on several boards, will also expand his activities in that area. Kerry Wong, who was the firm’s chief operations officer, will move on to an operations role for a company outside the PR industry.
 
Only Ryan will remain in the public relations business, forming Ryan Communications, which will focus on strategic communications counseling.
 
“We will be expanding on the insight we gained working at NRW to work with CEOs and other members of the executive team to help them position their companies in the marketplace,” says Ryan, who helped introduce NRW’s proprietary “Architecture of Identity” methodology, which blended vision, positioning, and voice.
 
“We started our business 10 years ago in a down market, and I believe this is a great time to expand into new areas,” he says.
 
His plans sound similar to the transition made a decade or so ago by Regis McKenna, who built one of Silicon Valley’s largest and most famous public relations brands before making the move into marketing consulting. But Ryan says there will be one difference: “We won’t be turning our back on execution, because I believe execution and strategy have to be integrated. There’s a tremendous amount of market insight you can only gain from working on the execution.”
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